Ispaoreai Hyps’rat (Onyx Station)
Admiral Qwert’s eyes snapped open.
He knew from the darkness of his quarters that it was still night. It wasn’t the darkness that had awakened him, though, but rather a distinct sense that something was wrong. He reached out for his walking cane, feeling slightly reassured at the familiar heft of it in his hand. He’d learned over his years in the Resistance that it always a good idea to have a weapon to hand.
His sense of unease didn’t fade. In fact, it increased. It was a sensation with which he had a lot of experience. He’d felt it when meeting with prospective clients about to try and pull a fast one or later - when he joined the Resistance – on assignment when his cover had been blown. His father had called it following his lobes.
Throwing off the covers, Qwert slid out of bed, one hand wrapped around the reinforced havawood of his cane. Time to follow my lobes, then.
He reached over and grabbed his uniform, pulling it on. The temperature in his quarters had dropped, he was sure of it. Could that be what he had sensed, what had set his lobes atingling?
Standing up, he tapped the comm badge on his jacket breast.
“Qwert to Redemption
Nothing. His frown deepened. He tapped it again.
“Qwert to Sarine.”
Still nothing. He cursed quietly. It looked like his sense of unease had been justified after all. He needed to find out what was going on.
He crossed to the quarter’s door and crouched down just outside the sensor radius, trying to prepare himself for what he might find outside. What he wouldn’t give for a phaser, but the Laurentii had been insistent that all of the diplomatic corps give up their weapons upon arrival. Not even the security officers had been allowed to keep theirs. Like showing your opponent a bad hand in tongo.
Well, no use crying over the latinum once it’s spent. Taking a firmer grip on his cane, he crept forward. The door irised open. He still couldn’t get used to the way things worked on the Laurentii station – he felt a shiver run down his spine at the moist sound of the orifice unclenching. The shiver of disgust turned into one of fear as he saw the two shadows waiting on the other side of the door. The little light from the corridor reflected off the eyestrips of two Laurentii.
He caught sight of the business ends of some kind of weapons pointing at him. Both tracked towards him the moment the door finished opening.
Qwert exploded up out from his crouch. Neither Laurentii reacted fast enough, obviously expecting to face a feeble old Ferengi trader. It wouldn’t be the first time someone had underestimated him. Though it would probably be their last.
He slammed the latinum pressed head of the Nagus into the first Laurentii’s stomach. Using his own body as leverage, he twisted his arms, slamming the soldier against the doorjamb. He struck, his head colliding against the hard space station wall and tumbled to the floor.
Qwert was already spinning to face the other man. Spinning the cane, he thrust the hard point of the wood into one of the soldier’s breathing flaps.
The Laurentii roared, spinning away. He retched, green and red vomit gushing to the floor. Qwert stepped into his personal space, striking the Laurentii’s fingers with his cane. The soldier screeched, dropping his claw-like weapon.
Dropping to a crouch, Qwert scooped up the weapon, turned it on the Laurentii and fired. Moments later, he fired again, taking down the second man.
It had taken all of a few moments. In the aftermath, Qwert just stood there, taking a few deep breaths to calm his beating heart. Even after his years in the Resistance, he still couldn’t get used to hand to hand combat.
Quite a flaw for a former assassin. He grunted. I was always better with a phase-rifle and a clean escape route.
He tried to make some kind of sense of what had just happened. Why had the Laurentii attacked him? What was happening onboard this station?
Only one way to find out. Stepping over the still smoking body of the first soldier and into the corridor, his foot came to rest in a pool of noxious red and green liquid. He jumped forward, disgusted, wiping his bare foot on the wall. It took him a few moments to realise that the vomit shouldn’t have been there.
He had seen Onyx Station swallow everything and anything, including his own excrements. Why hadn’t it swallowed this? What had happened while he was asleep?
Suddenly, light played over the wall off to the side. Qwert spun round, bringing the Laurentii weapon to bear. He hesitated a moment before firing, though, just long enough to recognise the shadow at the end of the corridor as Lieutenant Garabaldi, the hu-mon woman heading up the diplomatic security detail. She held her hands up in a conciliatory gesture, a phaser in one hand and a torch strapped to her other arm.
“It’s me, Admiral.”
Qwert relaxed, letting out an explosive breath as he allowed his weapon hand to drop slightly.
She started towards him, the light bobbing on the dark walls. “Unknown, admiral. Two Laurentii attacked me in my quarters. I managed to get to my phaser before they were able to kill me with this.” She brandished a sharp, nasty looking knife she held in her torch wielding hand. “I took them both out.”
“Did they give any indication what they wanted?”
Garabaldi had reached him by now and he saw her eyes drop to the two Laurentii corpses. Her eyes widened and she glanced at him, reassessing him.
“Lieutenant?” he said, bringing her back to the subject at hand. She shook her head.
“Yes, admiral. Sorry, admiral. No, they gave no indication.” Not that she would have given them much time to explain
. Qwert shook his head. “Something has gone very wrong here, lieutenant. Where are the rest of your team?”
Her face grew dark. “Dead, sir. I found their bodies in their rooms. They had gotten to them before they came for me.”
Qwert felt a dark chasm opening beneath his feet. The blood that had been shed that night – on both sides - would make any kind of agreement between the Hegemony and the Federation difficult, if not impossible. He pushed the thought away. For now, he had no idea what was going on. The most important thing was to find the others and survive this night. They could deal with the fall out later.
“Alright, lieutenant. We can’t stay here. Eventually, someone is going to come looking for these assassins and I’m assuming they’ll bring reinforcements. We need to find the other members of the party. The ambassador. Mister Groves.” If they’re still alive. No, don’t even think it.
He dreaded to think what might happen if the Laurentii had killed a Federation ambassador and the President’s deputy chief of staff.
“Aye, sir.” She hesitated. “Sir, what if…”
He put a hand on her arm. “Not now, lieutenant. Not now.”
She closed her mouth and he saw a professional veneer veil her thoughts and feelings. She stood a bit straighter. “Of course, sir. I should take point.”
“By all means.”
Now that she had something to do, Garabaldi seemed much more composed. She stepped past him, bringing her torch up and playing it over the walls. For the first time, Qwert saw them clearly and he realised that they were shifting, almost imperceptibly. Tiny waves rippling the surface. It seemed to be coming from the direction they were headed.
As he followed the security chief down the corridor, Qwert wondered what the hell had happened. And whether any of them would survive the night.
Prin stared at the oncoming Behemoths, trying to figure out what to do. Barani’s words echoed in her ears. A murder? Who had been killed? One of the Laurentii? Or one of theirs? She shook her head. How did this happen? More importantly, what was she going to do about it? If she stood down, she had no idea what the Laurentii might do to her ship or her crew. It went against everything she had been taught and every instinct she had gained in the Resistance. If she didn’t, though, it might set off a battle that could drag the Federation into the middle of another war.
“Commander?” Barani’s voice dragged her out of her reverie. “What do we do?”
I have no choice. Prophets forgive me, I have no choice.
“Raise shields,” she ordered, surprising herself by the firm tone of her voice. “Engage Tactical Projection System and bring weapons on line.”
The walls of the bridge shimmered around her as her crew moved to battle stations. Vanishing, the bridge was replaced by the now familiar holographic representation of the space around them. Prin had worked with the TPS for long enough not to feel the nausea and discomfort that often afflicted those with less experience. Standing on nothing took some getting used to.
The station hung in space before them, surrounded by the fleet of Behemoths. Prin had no need to check the readouts on her headset – L’wynd had informed the senior staff during the daily briefing the day before that there were over ninety of the giant ships out there. Thank the Prophet for small mercies. Only five of them had broken off to intercept them.
They just want to frighten us, she told herself. They won’t risk destroying everything that we have-
A pulse of red fire lanced from the closest Behemoth. Prin barely had time to register its visual existence before the blast struck Redemption, shaking the deck beneath her feet.
“Shields holding,” L’wynd reported from Tactical. “Down 5%”
5%? Damn! She remembered the tactical officer’s words from the day before – they knew next to nothing about the Behemoth ships. The sensors had been unable to pierce the various shields and interference fields to get a reading on weapons, defence systems, anything. We’re fighting blind.
“Fire a warning shot.” I don’t want to set off a war if we can avoid it. This has to be a misunderstanding. It has to be. “And keep trying to raise the station. I want to know what by the Prophets is going on over there.”
L’wynd reacted instantly. A torpedo rippled across space, passing over the nearest Behemoth’s forward hull. Hopefully that will have gotten their attention.
The ship shook again as two of the Behemoths fired their pulse weapons. Prin barely kept her feet, dancing across the invisible deck with the grace of a gymnast. “Report!”
“Shields down 30%.”
Barani turned to her from Ops. “Commander, perhaps we should consider returning fire.”
Prin gritted her teeth. “Not yet.”
The other woman looked as though she were going to protest, but thought better of it, returning to her screens. Moments later, though, red fire burst from beneath their feet, striking a daunting blow against the largest Behemoth. The living ship shook, greyish green flesh ripped from the creature’s hide.
“I ordered you to hold fire,” Prin shouted, turning on the tactical officer.
“That’s wasn’t us,” L’wynd replied, frantically checking her screens. “I swear Commander, we didn’t fire.”
Prin turned back to see Barani staring straight down. She followed her gaze in time to see two Behemoths rising from below. A moment after she saw them, one of them fired again. The line of fire scoured a hit on the furthest Behemoth, tearing at the creature’s trailing wing.
What the hell is –
“We’re being hailed.”
“On screen,” Prin ordered.
A part of the holographic display shimmered, then coalesced into the three dimensional bust of a Laurentii. Blue skin reflected the light of multiple energy blasts as the Behemoths met in space in front of Redemption. His yellow eye strip flickered, only a tad less disconcerting than it had been when Prin first saw one of the aliens.
“This is varec Kh’ylat aboard Oerdonna,” the head barked. “If you move in behind us, we have orders to protect you.”
Protect us? Still, she wasn’t going to reject a gift from the Prophets. “My name is Commander Prin Ly’et. I am in command of Redemption in the absence of Captain Sarine. Thank you for your assistance, varec. We’re moving into position now.”
She looked off to the side, catching Astrid Williams’ eye and nodding. The helm officer manipulated her holo controls, sending the ship down and in behind the defending Behemoths. Prin looked all around and saw that more and more of the living ships were moving around them, joining the screen. Of course, a similar number of Behemoths were joining the attackers. This is about to turn into a war zone.
Prin turned her attention back to the varec. “You mentioned orders varec? Can I take that to mean you are in touch with the station?”
The varec’s eye strip turned a darker yellow, bordering on the brown. “We were, just long enough for havac Lkim to give us our orders. Since then, nothing.”
Prin was reluctant to ask the next question, but she knew she had no choice. “And if I may ask varec – why are they
not following those orders?” She indicated the attacking Behemoths, many of which had now engaged the protective screen of ships.
She allowed herself to be distracted for a moment by the sight of two of the living ships attacking one another not with lasers and shields but with their heavy tails.
She blinked and returned her attention to the varec. “What is happening here?”
“Our forces are split, Prinly’et.” He said her name as one word. “And those opposing us have been given different orders.”
She felt a chill run down her spine. “And what orders would those be?”
“To destroy you, Prinly’et. And to kill all the Federationers onboard that station.”